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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

High Court Case Filed Against Former Police Chief KPS Gill for Murder of Human Rights Activist Jaswant Singh Khalra

Paramjit Kaur Khalra, the widow of human rights activist Jaswant Singh Khalra, filed a legal petition today calling for the investigation and prosecution of former police chief KPS Gill for the abduction, illegal detention, torture, and murder of her husband. Eleven years ago today, on September 6, 1995, members of the Punjab Police operating under Mr. Gill’s command abducted Mr. Khalra for investigating and exposing the “disappearances” and secret cremations of thousands of Sikhs in Punjab by security forces. Mr. Gill’s subordinates illegally detained and tortured Mr. Khalra for nearly two months, before murdering him in late October 1995.

Mrs. Khalra, represented by High Court attorney Rajvinder Bains, filed the petition in the Punjab and Haryana High Court after the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) refused to investigate and prosecute Mr. Gill. Ensaaf, a nonprofit organization based in the U.S., worked with Mr. Bains to draft the petition and apply the international law doctrine of superior responsibility.

In early 1995, Mr. Khalra publicly disclosed that he was receiving death threats from senior police officials, and asked the public to hold Mr. Gill accountable for his murder and the mass secret cremations perpetrated by Mr. Gill’s subordinates. In his last speech to an international audience, Mr. Khalra responded to Mr. Gill’s attempts to cover-up the abuses as “a challenge to that truth which we sought to bring forward.” Mr. Khalra remained steadfast in his resolve to pursue truth and justice for the families of the “disappeared.”

“Despite powerful evidence and a strong basis in law, the government has, thus far, refused to investigate or charge KPS Gill for his role in murdering Mr. Khalra,” said Sukhman Dhami, Co-Director of Ensaaf. “Until the architect of this crime is brought to justice, Jaswant Singh Khalra’s call remains unanswered.” In November 2005, the Sessions Court convicted six of Mr. Gill’s subordinate officers for the abduction and murder of Mr. Khalra. Near the end of the trial, special police officer Kuldeep Singh, who guarded Mr. Khalra in illegal detention, testified that Mr. Gill had interrogated Mr. Khalra several days prior to Mr. Khalra’s murder. His testimony also indicates that Mr. Gill ordered subordinates to murder Mr. Khalra.

“This petition demonstrates that the weight of Indian and international law, applied to the evidence, provides a clear framework to prosecute Mr. Gill’s acts and omissions in regards to the crimes committed against Mr. Khalra,” said Jaskaran Kaur, Co-Director of Ensaaf.

Read the international legal arguments and the executive summary on Ensaaf’s website ( http://www.ensaaf.org/Gill-petition.html ). Please also visit the page on Jaswant Singh Khalra ( http://www.ensaaf.org/khalra.html ) to learn more about his ourageous work to expose mass secret cremations in Punjab.

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